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Rappleye's nepotism story, then and now

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Back in June, I reported that WJAR-TV's Bill Rappleye was pursuing the time-honored adversarial relationship between reporters and elected officials when he asked Governor Carcieri about a nepotism-related matter. The gov's people -- and even some folks affiliated with Channel 10 -- didn't much like it. 

John Robitaille, the governor’s recently hired communications adviser, accused Rappleye of going over the line, making “a carefully orchestrated partisan attack on the gover-nor,” and he demanded an apology from Channel 10.

Even though Paul Giacobbe, WJAR’s part-time ombudsman, backed the legitimacy of asking about Accaputo’s state job, he found that the “demeanor of the reporter and the nature and tone of questions regarding the employment of the niece was inappropriate.” The split ruling seems curious, particularly considering how Rappleye remained polite, if pointed and persistent, through his line of questioning.

More damningly, Lisa Churchville, Channel 10’s general manager, wrote to Robitaille that “Mr. Rappleye has been reminded of his responsibilities to the public as an impartial journalist.”

As Bruce Landis reports today, Rappleye was on the right track.

PROVIDENCE — When Governor Carcieri took office in 2003, his first executive order dealt with “ethics and integrity” and directed the thousands of state and local officials governed by the state Code of Ethics to obey it, something they were already supposed to be doing.

When the governor settled his first ethics violation case two years later, he was apparently the first Rhode Island governor to do so.

Yesterday, Governor Carcieri broke new ground again by admitting to his fourth ethics violation and paying a $2,500 fine for hiring his niece, Stephanie Accaputo, in 2003.

In the settlement with the state Ethics Commission, Carcieri admitted violating the code, whose nepotism provisions bar public officials from using their positions to benefit their relatives.

In a statement afterward, however, the governor’s office asserted that “Mitigating factors found the governor did not intend to violate the Code of Ethics by employing Ms. Accaputo.”

Although the document includes mitigating factors favoring Carcieri, it also says explicitly that neither the commission nor the prosecution agreed with them. They were written by the governor’s lawyers and were included as a courtesy to the governor, commission prosecutor Diane Leyden said. The governor’s statement was “completely inaccurate” in that regard, she said.

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